A conservatorship is basically a process in California where a person can go to court and seek to obtain control over an individual over age 18. Compare this to a guardianship, which is the ability to make decisions for minors.
There are 3 types of conservatorships: a general conservatorship, a limited conservatorship, and an LPS conservatorship. A general conservatorship is typically used for elderly individuals who have dementia or other illnesses so they are not able to manage their finances, make health care decisions, etc. An LPS conservatorship can be imposed over a person with grave mental health challenges who is a danger to themselves or others.
A limited conservatorship can be sought for developmentally disabled adults. We want developmentally disabled individuals to be as independent as possible, so the idea is that one should only seek to get power over the individual in areas which are needed. The adult must be a client of the regional center where the individual lives.
There are 7 powers that a person can seek over a developmentally disabled person (the “proposed conservatee”): (1) to decide where the conservatee lives; (2) to access confidential records of the conservatee; (3) to enter into contracts; (4) to give or withhold medical consent; (5) to make decisions concerning education; (6) to consent or withhold consent to marriage; and (7) to control the conservatee’s social and sexual relationships. In practice, many counties in California are hesitant to grant the last 2 powers, so most “proposed conservators” only seek the first 5 powers.
Process for a Limited Conservatorship
It typically takes three to six months to obtain a limited conservatorship, and you always have to go through the court system in the county where the proposed conservatee lives. Here are the main steps involved in obtaining a limited conservatorship:
- The proposed conservator fills out and files many initial forms, including the main petition, confidential supplemental forms providing information about the proposed conservatee and the proposed conservator.
- The court sets a hearing date, assigns a court investigator, and assigns the proposed conservatee an attorney.
- The proposed conservator, proposed conservatee and other family members are interviewed by the court investigator and conservatee’s attorney, who prepare reports for the court. The regional center also provides a report to the court.
- The proposed conservatee’s doctor or psychologist completes a “capacity declaration” and submits it to the court.
- All family members to the second degree (parents, grandparents, and siblings of proposed conservatee) receive copies of the notice of hearing so they can attend the hearing if they choose, and the proposed conservatee receives his or her own notice of hearing, called a “citation.”
- Court hearing is held.
- Letters of Conservatorship (one-page form) are issued – this is what the conservator can use to speak with the conservatee’s doctors, access records, etc.
- Conservators file proposed care plan for conservatee